It is very troubling to be approached by a woman coming out of the dark on a street corner at 5:30 am – particularly if that woman is asking for help.
As some may know, despite having been laid off I have maintained my daily schedule. I still get up early and head out to exercise, warm, cold, raining or not. I am usually out the door by 5:30 am. When I was working this was the only time of day I really had to myself so I would take full advantage. I still do. I pop my headphones on, turn my Walkman to my local morning show and listen to the news and entertainment report for the day.
While out on my daily route I saw a figure standing alone on the street corner. I thought perhaps it was somebody waiting to hook up with a ride to work or waiting on an early bus (even though I don’t think the bus runs down that street any more). I had already figured I was going to err on the side of caution and head down another street and be on my way. That’s when I heard her raise her voice and say, “Excuse me, but I need help…”
I have for many years asserted that a very small number of people tend to really screw things up for the rest of us. I had already made the choice in my mind to avoid this person – from a purely selfish stand point. I didn’t want to be social while I was exercising. There was also a small part of me that figured this person could be crazy, homeless/begging (odd choice of hours and location, but still) or even possibly looking for an early morning crime target. I won’t just blithely walk into a set up if I can help it. This is the first portion of the “others screw things up for the rest of us” assertion. Why would I consider this woman, alone on a street corner a threat in my neighborhood? Is the crime rate so dramatically high that I should fear for my Walkman and sweatpants? I shouldn’t have to live with that kind of fear in my own neighborhood. That makes me sad and angry all in the same breath. The next part of my assertion? I actually had to take a second and think, “I’m alone in the dark with this woman I don’t know. I am at least a foot taller than she is and easily outweigh her by 100 pounds. Who would believe ME if she wanted to call the police and accuse me of something?” I tend to have that thought a lot. I am not the kind of person that would take advantage of a woman because my size and strength make that possible – but if you don’t know me, how would you know? IF I was accused of something and even if I was completely innocent, it would ruin my reputation, hurt my career and probably end my ability to continue my volunteer work. There are a lot of folks that will “convict” in the media and a person may never recover from something like that. Why do I have to fear this? I despise the fact that I have to fear the potential ramifications of any time I spend alone with a woman I don’t know – just because others have screwed this up before. I mean that for both men and women by the way. Men for their heinous actions that give women reason to fear. Women who make false accusations and make reporting real problems so much harder. When you hear me say, “People Suck” this is what I’m talking about.
She’s alone in the dark on a chilly morning asking for help – why is my first thought not, “I should help her”?
I popped the earbuds out and headed over to her. She needed to make a call to her shift supervisor – she was working overnight and had locked herself out. I presume she was popping out for a smoke or something like that and couldn’t get back in. There are a ton of offices at the end of the street where I was and a bunch likely use overnight or off hours crews for cleaning, laundry, etc. She showed me her wallet where she had the number written down. I dialed up the local number and let her use my phone to call in to her work and let somebody know they had to get a key and head to her location. She handed the phone back and I hung up the call. Simple act of helping out achieved.
She thanked me and then backed away while facing me… maybe she was stuck in the same thought process I was?
I was glad I was able to help her out. I’m disheartened that there is this thought haze that now seems to hang over the simple act of lending a hand to somebody in need.